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MPLS vs Ethernet for WAN Connectivity

A WAN (Wide Area Network) is a communications network that spans geographically dispersed areas such as across cities, states or countries. A business may have a WAN comprised of cloud services, its headquarters and smaller branch offices, so the WAN is used to connect all sites together. The two most popular WAN connectivity options are MPLS ((Multiprotocol Label Switching) and Ethernet. To help subscribers analyze the differences between MPLS and Ethernet, this side-by-side MPLS vs Ethernet comparison provides a quick overview of the pros and cons of each WAN connectivity option.

MPLS vs Ethernet

What is MPLS?

MPLS is a protocol for efficient network traffic flow between multiple locations. MPLS operates similarly on a data switch and router, sitting between layers 2 and layer 3 network. MPLS uses labels for fast packets forwarding and routing within a network. In MPLS network, the MPLS switch (typically Gigabit Ethernet switch and 10GbE switch) transfers data by popping off its label and sending the packet to the next switch label in the sequence. The main benefits of MPLS network service are listed as below.

  • Reliability: MPLS is most widely used way to interconnect data centers with remote offices and branches to other branches since MPLS does require an entire block of IPs.
  • Service: With MPLS, there is a higher service level agreement that include delivery guarantees for speed and class of service (COS), unlike consumer broadband.
  • Labor Cost: MPLS allows businesses to leave WAN routing to the service provider and keep fewer WAN engineers on staff.

What is Ethernet?

Ethernet is a network protocol that controls how data is transmitted over a LAN (Local Area Network), such as those in a room, office, building or campus. As a point-to-point system, an Ethernet network uses Ethernet cables to connect PCs, switches or routers. Most desktop and laptop computers come with integrated an Ethernet card so that it’s easy to connect. Although the functionality of Ethernet is not as high-performing as that of an MPLS network, there are still some merits making it appealing.

  • Affordability: Although the scalability of Ethernet is smaller than that of MPLS, Ethernet is more affordable than MPLS, thus becoming the optimal choice for small and medium sized businesses.
  • Simplicity: Ethernet is best for connecting one data center to another, including using metro Ethernet to connect corporate sites dispersed geographically.
  • Professional Resources: Ethernet gives in-house WAN engineers control and responsibility over routing.
  • Disaster Recovery: Ethernet offers low latency and high output, which is ideal for disaster recovery.
  • Availability: Ethernet exchanges have made Ethernet WAN services available in more locations.

MPLS vs Ethernet for the WAN

Take a closer look at the subtle difference between MPLS vs Ethernet for the WAN connectivity from the chart below.

Parameter MPLS Ethernet
Scalability Scale to over thousands of sites Scale to up to hundreds of sites
Application Interconnect data centers with branch offices and branches to other branches Interconnect data centers
WAN routing Leave WAN routing to the service provider and keep fewer WAN engineers on staff Give WAN engineers control and responsibility over routing
WAN protocol behavior Handle any-to-any connectivity, including voice and video Offer low-latency and high-throughput, which is ideal for disaster recovery.
Quality of service (QoS) QoS options to enable preferential treatment of latency-sensitive traffic like VoIP Network engineers can bypass QoS complexity by hooking switches directly to Ethernet pipes
WAN management Complex Simple
Cost High Low

Summary

When weighing the pros and cons of MPLS vs Ethernet, make sure to examine your business needs and understand the resources available within the network, as well as what options exist in your geographic area. Most ISPs nowadays also offer an ISP-managed MPLS service, so they can manage the equipment, and basically get an Ethernet handoff to a switch, which is the so called “MPLS over Ethernet”. No matter which solution you would prefer, your network selection will influence the quality, reliability, service and cost of your WAN connectivity.

VPLS vs MPLS: What’s the Difference?

The Internet has undergone tremendous changes and broken the barriers from the impossibilities to the possibilities. To seamlessly and securely get access to the Internet or Web is what we’re seeking along the way. VPLS and MPLS are two competing technologies to direct network traffic, letting you have speedy data transfer and communication. What is a VPLS or MPLS network? What’s the difference between VPLS vs MPLS? We’re gonna to elaborate them one by one.

What Is MPLS?

MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) is a type of communication that enables a service provider to provision cost effective and flexible “Virtual Private Networks” across a shared core network infrastructure. MPLS is used to send data and network traffic along the most efficient routes, which may be predetermined and are communicated using labels. Packets are carried on predetermined routes along point-to-point connections through label switch routers (LSRs) until they arrive at their destination. In MPLS network, the MPLS switch (eg. FS S5800-48F4S SFP switch) transfers data by popping off its label and sending the packet to the next switch label in the sequence. MPLS perfectly integrates the performance and traffic management capabilities of Layer 2 switching with the scalability and flexibility of Layer 3 routing.

MPLS Network

What Is VPLS?

VPLS (Virtual Private LAN Service) is a service that uses MPLS and VPN (Virtual Private Networking) to securely and seamlessly connect multiple LANs over the Internet, making them appear as if they were all on the same LAN. VPLS enables a service provider to extend a Layer 2 network across geographically dispersed sites using a shared core network infrastructure. VPLS works by creating a virtualized Ethernet switch at the provider’s edge to link remote sites. VPLS happens at Layer 2, and the carrier builds out the network, but the customer can do their own routing if they wish. This approach is ideal for corporations that have multiple data center footprints and office or remote locations that require low-latency connections between sites.

VPLS Network

VPLS vs MPLS: Factors to Consider When Choosing Them

When deciding over VPLS vs MPLS for connectivity between remote locations, there are multiple factors to consider. We’ll look into them one by one.

Switching Layer

One of the main benefits of VPLS over MPLS are the levels of security offered. As aforementioned, VPLS extend a Layer 2 network across geographically dispersed sites using a shared core network infrastructure. While MPLS perfectly integrates the performance and traffic management capabilities of Layer 2 switching with the scalability and flexibility of Layer 3 routing. VPLS does not share layer 3 routing tables with the service provider, while MPLS may do so, means that VPLS is generally the better solution for highly-sensitive data.

Network Size & Traffic

Generally, MPLS can deliver a wider type of network traffic than VPLS. VPLS is typically used for fewer locations that need very high speeds, very simple networks with high performance and high security. Thus, if you desire to connect entities such as data centers across the long-haul network backbone, VPLS is preferable as an Ethernet-based connection strategy. If a customer had hundreds of locations across the country who needs voice, data and video traffic to be carried to all locations, MPLS might make more sense because it is protocol-agnostic and can handle multiple types of traffic. MPLS may be an even clearer choice where large numbers of branches are involved.

Levels of Scalability

Another key difference between MPLS and VPLS is the inherent level of scalability. Due to the manner in which these two technologies interact with your network, MPLS is considered to be far more scalable. Using a backbone of MPLS for maximum network access and scalability, together with VPLS connections for more sensitive data often represents the best possible compromise, you would make the most of both protocols and substantially increase network efficiency.

Conclusion

Although MPLS and VPLS are different technologies, they are not mutually exclusive. Many businesses deploy both MPLS and VPLS protocols within their network in order to get the best of both worlds. FS provides gigabit ethernet switch and 10gbe switch which support both MPLS and VPLS. All these switches comes with rich L2/L3 business processing ability for core switching networks.

VPN vs VLAN: What’s the Difference?

As the popularity of the Internet has grown, many businesses are seeking for approaches to extend their own networks. First came Intranets, which are sites designed for use only by company employees. Nowadays, many of them are creating their own VPN (Virtual Private Network) or VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network) to accommodate the needs of remote employees and distant offices. What is a VPN and what is VLAN? This post will explain these two terms and the differences between VPN vs VLAN.

What Is a VPN?

A VPN is a virtual private network that utilizes a public network (usually the Internet) to connect remote sites or users together. A typical VPN network has a main local area network (LAN) at the corporate headquarters of a company, other LANs at remote offices or facilities, and individual users that connect from out in the field. Instead of using a dedicated leased line, a VPN uses “virtual” connections routed over a public or shared infrastructure such as the Internet or service provider backbone network. Therefore subscribers who are physically isolated from the main LAN can get access to the company’s private network and remotely.

VPN Applicable Network Scenario

Here is a typical example of using the VPN network. As illustrated in the figure below, Network “A” sites have established a VPN (depicted by the red lines) across the service provider’s backbone network, where Network “B” is completely unaware of it’s existence. Both Network “A” and Network “B” can harmoniously coexist on the same backbone infrastructure without interrupting each other.

VPN Network

What Is a VLAN–the Subcategory of VPN

A VLAN is a group of networking devices configured to communicate on one or more LANs as if they were attached to the same wire, but actually they are located on a number of different LAN segments. VLAN networks are based on logical instead of physical connections with great flexibility. A VLAN network defines broadcast domains in a Layer 2 network. A broadcast domain is the set of all devices performed to receive broadcast frames originating from any other device within the set. Broadcast domains are usually bounded by routers since routers do not forward broadcast frames.

VLAN Applicable Network Scenario

As shown in the figure below, Layer 2 network switches are used to create multiple broadcast domains based on the configuration of these switches. Each broadcast domain is just like a distinct virtual bridge within a switch. By adding a Layer 3 router, it possible to send traffic between VLANs while still containing broadcast traffic within VLAN boundaries. The router uses IP subnets to deliver traffic between VLANs. Each VLAN has a distinct IP subnet, and there is a one-to-one correspondence of VLAN and IP subnet boundaries.

VLAN Network

VPN vs VLAN: How They Differ From Each Other?

VPN vs VLAN, they are two different concepts but related to each other. A VLAN is a subcategory of VPN, but they are designed for different hierarchies. VPN constructs range from Layer 1 to Layer 3, while VLAN is purely a layer 2 construct. A VLAN is used to group multiple computers that are not usually within the same geographical areas into the same broadcast domain. A VLAN can also segregate computers in a larger local network into smaller networks for each office or department and shielding the data so that they do not act as if they are on same network even if they are in the same switch. However, a VPN is more often related to remote access to a company’s network resources. It’s a method of creating a smaller sub network on top of an existing bigger network compared with VLAN.

Summary

No matter which one you choose over VPN vs VLAN, the foremost thing is to get reliable network switches or routers implemented in VPN or VLAN networks. FS can always fulfill your requirements by offering gigabit ethernet switch, 10gbe switch, 40gbe switches, as well as new gigabit VPN routers. They’re with powerful data-handling capacity and high compatibility for applications in data centers and enterprises.

Do I Need a Gigabit Switch or 10/100Mbps Switch?

Ethernet network speeds have evolved significantly over time and typically range from Ethernet (802.11) at 10Mbps, Fast Ethernet (IEEE 802.3u) at 100Mbps, Gigabit Ethernet (IEEE 802.3-2008) at 1000Mbps and 10 Gigabit Ethernet (IEEE 802.3a) at 10Gbps. Meanwhile, Ethernet switches have also escalated from 10/100Mbps switch to Gigabit switch, 10GbE switch, and even 100GbE switches. The topic came up frequently that “Do I Need a Gigabit Switch or 10/100Mbps Switch?” Gigabit switch vs 10/100Mbps switch, which do I need to satisfy my network speeds requirement? This post will give you the answer.

Ethernet Speed

Gigabit Switch: the Mainstream on Network Switch Market

A Gigabit switch is an Ethernet switch that connects multiple devices, such as computers, servers, or game systems, to a Local Area Network (LAN). Small business and home offices often use Gigabit switches to allow more than one device to share a broadband Internet connection. A gigabit switch operates in the same manner, only at data rates much greater than standard or Fast Ethernet. People can use these switches to quickly transfer data between devices in a network, or to download from the Internet at maximum speeds of 1000Mbps. If a switch says “Gigabit”, it really means the same thing as 10/100/1000, because Gigabit switches support all three speed levels and will auto-switch to the appropriate one when something is plugged in. The following is a Gigabit 8 port poe switch with 8 x 10/100/1000Base-T RJ45 Ethernet ports.

8 port poe switch

10/100Mbps Switch: Still Alive and Well for Some Reason

10/100Mbps switch is a Fast Ethernet switch released earlier than Gigabit Ethernet switch. The data speed of 10/100Mbps switch is rated for 10 or 100Mbps. When a network switch says “10/100”, it means that each port on the switch can support both 10Mbps and 100Mbps connection speeds, and will usually auto-switch depending on what’s plugged into it. Currently, few devices run at 10Mbps, but it is still alive on the market for some reason. Actually, 10/100 is sufficient for internet browsing and Netflix. But if you will be doing more than one thing with your network connection, such as file transfers, or the set-top box, I would recommend you go with the Gigabit switch.

10/100Mbps Switch

Gigabit Switch vs 10/100Mbps Switch: How to Choose?

Network engineers who refresh the edge of their campus LAN encounter a fundamental choice: Stick with 100Mbps Fast Ethernet or upgrade to Gigabit Ethernet (GbE). Vendors will undoubtedly push network engineers toward pricier GbE, but network engineers need to decide for themselves which infrastructure is right for the business. Currently, Gigabit switch is much more popular than Fast Ethernet 10/100Mbps switch. Because gigabit switch used in tandem with a gigabit router will allow you to use your local network at speeds up to ten times greater than 10/100Mbps switch. If either of these component are not gigabit, the entire network will be limited to 10/100 speeds. So, in order to use the maximum amount of speed your network can pump out, you need every single component in your network (including you computers) to be gigabit compliant. In addition, by delivering more bandwidth and more robust management, Gigabit switches are also more energy efficient than 10/100Mbps switches. This offers enterprises the opportunity to lower their power consumption on the network edge.

Conclusion

There’s a multitude of switch options to choose from on the dazzling market. So, before determining the right switch for your network, you’re supposed to have a close look at your current deployment and future needs. But for most cases, we recommend you buy Gigabit Ethernet devices instead of Fast Ethernet devices, even if they cost a little bit more. FS provides a full set of Gigabit switches, including 8 port switch, 24 port switch, 48 port switch, etc. With these high performance Gigabit Ethernet switches, your local network will run faster with better internet speed.

Deploying 10G ToR/Leaf Switch for Different Size Networks

With the migration from Gigabit Ethernet to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, cabling and network switching architectures have been reevaluated to guarantee a cost-effective and smooth transition. 10Gb ToR (Top of Rack) or leaf switch has evolved with significant performance gains and cost-per-port reduction. This post will introduce the benefits of ToR architecture and explains how to deploy 10G ToR/leaf switch for different size networks.

Why Use Top-of-Rack Architecture

ToR or leaf-spine is a network architecture design where there are only two tiers of switches between the servers and the core network. In ToR network design, a feature-rich 10GbE switch handles Layer2 and Layer3 processing, data bridging and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) for an entire rack of servers. This approach contributes to an agile infrastructure because the ToR/leaf switches can support multiple I/O interfaces, including GbE, 10GbE and 40GbE. The 10G ToR/leaf switches utilized in the ToR architecture usually come with the advantage of low power consumption, ease of scale and simplified cabling complexity. When acting as a ToR/leaf switch, each 10G Ethernet switch can be placed just one hop away from another, no need to jump up and down in the tree design, enabling improved latency and bottlenecks. With a ToR design, you can eliminate cabling nightmares, minimize bottlenecks while building a network foundation for mission-critical applications that also provides a clear path for future growth.

Top of Rack Architecture

Campus Network Applications

For campus networks applications, the 10GE switches work as aggregation or core switches in the ToR network architecture. Here we take FS S5850-48S6Q 10G ToR/leaf switch as an example to illustrate how to build a ToR network in campus networks. In the following application diagram, two FS S5850-48S6Q 10GE switches are utilized as aggregation switches as the bridge to build connections between 40G switches in the core network and gigabit switches in the access layer.

10G ToR Switch Campus Network Application

SMB (Small and Medium-Sized Business) Applications

For small and medium-sized businesses, ToR network architectures are becoming more preferable by IT managers than ever before. Because ToR architectures enable them to implement a single cabling model that can support Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet and unified network fabric today, while supporting future 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet standards as they come to market. Using ToR architecture for fiber cable management, business IT managers have the flexibility to deploy preconfigured racks with different connectivity requirements in any rack position. For example, a rack of servers running multiple Gigabit Ethernet connections can be placed next to a rack of servers with 10 Gigabit Ethernet and FCoE connections to each server.

Data Center Applications

In hyper-scale data centers, there might be hundreds or thousands of servers that are connected to a network. In this case, ToR/leaf switches work in conjunction with spine switches in data centers to aggregate traffic from server nodes and then connect to the core of the network. Now given that we need to build a data center fabric with a primary goal of having at least 480 10G servers in the fabric. In this case, we can use FS S8050-20Q4C as spine switch and S5850-32S2Q as ToR/leaf switch. As shown in the figure below, the connections between spine switches (FS S8050-20Q4C) and ToR/leaf switches (FS S5850-32S2Q) are 40G, while connections between the leaf switches and servers are 10G. The port numbers on each spine switch determines the number of leaf switches we can use. But the maximum amount of 10G servers we can connect to ToR/leaf switch here is 24 because the ratio of reasonable bandwidth between leaf and spine switch cannot exceed 3:1. Thus the total amount of bandwidths we can get here is 480x10G.

10G ToR Switch Data Center Application

Top-of-Rack Cabling Recommendations

ToR network architectures utilize available cabling media options with flexibility at the rack level, using various server patch cable types, while taking advantage of fiber uplinks from the rack for horizontal cabling. Investment in the cabling media for 10, 40, and 100 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity involves striking a balance among bandwidth, flexibility, and scalability. Although both fiber and copper can support 10G, 40G and 100G transmission, fiber is the recommended horizontal cabling media as it offers an optimal solution for high speed 40G and 100G transmission over relatively long distances. Note that 40G and 100G transmission calls for multiple fiber strands (OM3, OM4, and SMF fiber).

Conclusion

The choice of ToR networking architecture can substantially affect throughput, sustainability, optimum density and energy management. As the key element of building ToR networks, 10G ToR/leaf switch can help you scale up networking architecture while delivering low-latency and high-bandwidth links. FS S5850/N5850 series switches are high performance 10GbE ToR/leaf switches which can work with Broadcom, Cisco, Juniper, Arista switches, as well as other major brands. For more information about 10GbE ToR/leaf switches, please kindly visit www.fs.com.

Related Article: 10G ToR/Leaf Ethernet Switch: What Is the Right Choice?